Muse singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy has wisely dialled back on espousing conspiracy theories in recent years, retracting that tiresome red flag about 9/11 being an inside job, and focusing on his band’s music rather than tinfoil hat tomfoolery. However, there is still a distinct undercurrent of it in their work. Their most recent album is entitled Will of the People, for starters, which sounds like something Tom Hardy’s Bane character said in The Dark Knight Rises. Bellamy claims it is “a greatest hits album – of new songs”.
For all their bluster, pretension and often baffling cocktail of Queen’s pomp rock, Pink Floyd’s prog, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden’s crunching riffs, and a relentless obsession with dystopian narratives, Muse are enduringly popular because they quite simply are a brilliant rock band of fantastic musicians who put on great shows. This is their fifth tour in a row to gross more than $100 million (€95 million) and sell over a million tickets. They roll into this dockside arena every few years with a massive backline and a lavish light show, and audaciously attempt to outdo their previous outings in terms of sheer scale and breathtaking ambition.
This is also a homecoming of sorts for the Devon trio. Bassist Chris Wolstenholme lived in Foxrock for a couple of years and his son played for Cabinteely FC. Bellamy’s mum hails from Belfast, and he salutes the occasion as the first concert he has played on Irish soil as a dual citizen. He must have applied for that post-Brexit passport after all.
Set openings are seldom this jaw-dropping. The band wear futurist silver masks for the aforementioned title track, Will of the People, which sounds louder and far more urgent live. Interlude and Hysteria start an unexpected celebration of their third album, Absolution, which sends long-term fans into delirium.
Muse complement their high-octane set with confetti canons, streamers, copious flame effects, retina-testing lights, gigantic screens, and a masked man and a devil bigger than your average house. You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween and the hysterically titled We Are F**king F**ked are further examples of the preposterous on record but totally killer live school of Muse stage craft.
The slowed-down proggy tempo of Madness lacks potency, but they more than compensate with a crowd-pleasing rendition of Uprising, where Bellamy plays its intro on a Nintendo power glove. For the encores, a giant Satan dwarves the stage with its hands protruding out into the arena.
Muse deliver a staggering 24-song set of propulsive, power-pop-flavoured hard rock to thrill the faithful and convert the curious. It’s mad to think that the first time they played Dublin was a humble support slot to Elastica in the old Temple Bar Music Centre and appearing bottom of the bill at the Trinity Ball. Elastica split up decades ago, while Muse are still touring the world, giving a masterclass in the sublime and ridiculous.